Before WorldNetDaily decided its mission was to stake what little journalistic reputation it has left on a desperate campaign to bring down Barack Obama by becoming an echo chamber for fringe claims that he may not have been born in the United States, it debunked the idea in August 2008, claiming not only that Philip Berg's lawsuit making that claim, in part, "relies on discredited claims" but that "[a] separate WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic."
WND -- and especially editor Joseph Farah -- has been pretending ever since that it never did this story, unable to admit the simple truth of its existence and grotesquely contorting itself into writing around it.
Farah demonstrated this once more in a March 3 column, written after Olbermann again referenced WND's original debunking, thus guaranteeing that Farah would respond -- and obfuscate again. Farah wrote:
It is simply untrue that WND ever "authenticated" the document on Obama's campaign site. First of all, we would have to examine the original document, not a web posting, to do that. Second of all, assuming it is not a fraud, which is more than I would assume, it proves nothing about Obama's actual place of birth, for the reason stated above.
Here's what WND stated in August 2008:
A separate WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic. The investigation also revealed methods used by some of the bloggers to determine the document was fake involved forgeries, in that a few bloggers added text and images to the certificate scan that weren't originally there.
Farah doesn't explain why it is unreasonable -- let alone "untrue" -- to conclude that if a "WND investigation ... found the document to be authentic," then WND has "authenticated" the document.
The simple solution to this crisis -- and to avoid further ridicule from Olbermann -- would be for Farah to do what real news organizations would do: acknowledge what WND wrote last August, formally retract the story, then explain to readers why he and his website no longer stand by that conclusion.
But for some reason, he won't do that. Why? Perhaps because he knows that the original report is true and that he's now playing a partisan game to undermine Obama's authority by peddling a lie.
Farah ironically concluded his column: "If you're sick of being lied to, I urge you to show the Keith Olbermanns and Jonathan Alters of the world what you think of them." But what good does it do to go after Olbermann and Alter if the person you're sick of getting lies from is Joseph Farah?
Farah is not the only WND employee who is unable to admit the truth about this. A March 10 article by Bob Unruh purporting to explain why there are "still questions about qualifications" claims that "bloggers who analyzed the image said it appeared to have been modified from the official state version, raising questions at to its authenticity" -- but doesn't tell readers that WND "found the document to be authentic."
WND has been less than forthcoming about other birth certificate-releated issues as well.
A March 14 article by Drew Zahn touted how attorney and birth certificate obsessive Orly Taitz, filer of several lawsuits on the issue, "confronted" Chief Justice John Roberts "with legal briefs and a WND petition bearing names of over 325,000 people asking the court to rule on whether or not the sitting president fulfills the Constitution's 'natural-born citizen' clause." Zahn added that a Secret Service agent accompanying Roberts "accepted two suitcases of documents and pledged to deliver them to Roberts," among them "[t]he WND petition, consisting of 3,300 pages of names - over 325,000 in all - of people demanding the Supreme Court hear the Obama eligibility case."
But the WND petition is highly secretive and apparently problematic. The signees are not publicly posted at WND or anywhere else, and there's no apparent verification mechanism to prevent people from signing it more than once or the use of fictitious names. Nor are signers apparently screened for being of legal voting age or proof of voter registration. It appears to be more of a marketing gimmick -- signees are required to provide their email address, which presumably gets them on WND's mailing list, and after signing are then directed to a page selling anti-Obama books.
Perhaps most importantly, there is no evidence provided to back up the number of signatures on the petition that WND claims -- we are expected to take WND's word for it.
Given that you and I cannot obtain such basic information about this petition without begging WND for it, and WND has refused to make it easily accessible and verifiable to its readers, how did Orly Tatiz get a hold of it?
This smells of a WND-orchestrated stunt. Zahn didn't disclose how Taitz obtained the signatures on WND's petition, but given the logistics of printing out "3,300 pages of names," the only possible conclusion is that WND teamed up with Taitz -- and perhaps paid some expenses to cover Taitz's trip from California to Idaho, where Roberts spoke -- to create this story.
WND has yet to publicly address the issue.
As with WND reporter Aaron Klein's Wikipedia-bashing stunt -- in which he was forced to admit that he set in motion the "news" events he wrote about -- the issue is one of disclosure. WND still hasn't told its readers that Klein's articles were altered after publication to remove references tracing Klein to his manipulation; WND hasn't disclosed its relationship with Taitz or its role in supplying Taitz with a copy of its petition.
For all we know -- given WND's eagerness to promote Taitz and her claims -- WND and Farah may even be funding the legal filings of Taitz or others in order to keep the story alive.
WND does have ties to at least one involved attorney besides Taitz. Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has filed a birth certificate-related lawsuit on behalf of Alan Keyes. As ConWebWatch has detailed, the USJF represented WND for at least three years regarding the libel lawsuit filed against it by Tennessee businessman Clark Jones (and which WND settled out of court in February 2008, just a few weeks before the lawsuit was to go to trial, in part by admitting it published false information about Jones), as well as in WND's 2002 efforts to obtain a permanent Senate press pass. To our knowledge, WND has never disclosed its past relationship withUSJF in its articles on USJF's anti-Obama filings.
News organizations are supposed to report the news, not create it. And if they do, they're supposed to fully disclose their role in doing so. WND has done neither.
Farah and WorldNetDaily have already demonstrated that they care more about attacking Obama than telling the truth. Until they can tell the full and forthright truth about basic issues regarding their coverage of Obama's birth certificate and admit their motivations, they should be treated as the liars and deceivers they are.
(A version of this article was posted at ConWebWatch.)
Follow Terry Krepel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ConWebWatch